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MSL Question

Postby F Thang » Wed Jul 12, 2017 11:46 am

Hi Everyone,

I have quick question(s) about medical affairs. Periodically, I have explored different options in medical affairs given my background in pharmacology and oncology. I have noticed that when I network through sales representatives, I almost always get a mean spirited or jealously like response. The representatives never forward my resume to the regional director of medical affairs; however, when I approach a MSL who was previously a scientist or the director himself, I get a more favorable response.

The representatives always lecture me on why I am not qualified and tell me the shortcomings in my scientific background, especially if I don't know them personally. My question is has the industry used MSLs to replace traditional sales representatives?

What is an efficient way to connect with regional MSL directors (hiring managers)?
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Re: MSL Question

Postby D.X. » Wed Jul 12, 2017 2:23 pm

Hi F Thang,

It would be good to know exactly what the Sales reps are saying to you re: scientific back ground?

Also are you misperceiving mean sprited or jealous responce? What country are you in?

In the US most reps do not have a direct contact or network in the MSL reporting lines, perhaps they have worked with an MSL on some projects as supported by company policy but thier world is limited, if they do have a contact directly its via thier local MSL counter part and well that relationship if any can vary hense your CV issue. NOT mean or jealous driven, just no contact.

I am unclear on how you are positioning yourself to the Sales reps i would advice and re-check how you are coming accross. Usually pharm sales reps are sound individuals - also dont know which ones you are talking to but they come in different flavors such as key account managers or hospital specialist, ask them to extrapolate and take their feedback seriously - i trust a Sales Rep feed back anyday above opinion of academic PhD with no experience any day, and i am a former MSL.

No MSLs do not replace Sales Reps, where appropriate they can complent and support some Sales activities in the US in a promotional capacity again per company policy and usually MSL management endorsement based in the MSL's view and willingness. They have thier own set of tactics and activities that are independent and sometimes non complementary to a Sales Rep activity - which requires separate skills and compentcies. Because MSLs are field based and because MSLs afe mainly engaged in thier own activities, it could be that Sales Reps feel out of the loop but thats thier issue, the activities are Separate and lkiewise MSLs many not know what local reps are doing... Alot of this depends in the MSL personality less than the Sales Reps in my experience. At the end of thevday when push comes to shove a Rep does not really neec a MSL in everyday life only in perhaps rare circumstances...then see my point on company policy and MSL decision to support or engage.

Regarding MSL directors, they are on Linkecin so easy and you can try finding them via local MSL as well.

Plesase manage your view on the Sales Reps in many cases they can know alot more than the MSL when it comes to the territoty and a good MSL will go knocking on the Reps door, not the other way around. So curb and change your view - take thier feedback contructive,y and ask specific questions on thier concern.

Best

DX
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Re: MSL Question

Postby Nate W. » Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:47 am

F Thang wrote:Hi Everyone,

I have quick question(s) about medical affairs. Periodically, I have explored different options in medical affairs given my background in pharmacology and oncology. I have noticed that when I network through sales representatives, I almost always get a mean spirited or jealously like response. The representatives never forward my resume to the regional director of medical affairs; however, when I approach a MSL who was previously a scientist or the director himself, I get a more favorable response.

The representatives always lecture me on why I am not qualified and tell me the shortcomings in my scientific background, especially if I don't know them personally. My question is has the industry used MSLs to replace traditional sales representatives?

What is an efficient way to connect with regional MSL directors (hiring managers)?



I had the same experience as you did when I was looking for a MSL position. There are fewer sales reps and more medical affairs teams since the mid 1990s. This has to do with increase regulations on marketing of drugs due mostly to numerous cases of fraud involving off-label or false claims about a drug made by a sales reps who lacked a scientific background. This doesn't mean sales reps aren't valuable in the marketing aspects. However, today, physicians are less likely to meet with someone lacking a scientific background and expertise about company's drug pipeline. This has lead to the rise of medical affairs teams (with the critical expertise) to support the sales staff and initiate industry sponsored clinical trials.

Given the shift in industry emphasis, there are probably some sales reps that feel they should be competing for MSL roles and probably explains why you get the reaction you do from the reps. Plus, it is harder to find a comfortable pharma sales position compared to 10-15 years ago and many sales reps are probably going to say building relationships and communication skills are far more than scientific expertise. It is important but it is not everything. KOLs physicians are busy and they want to talk with only an expert on the drugs in a company's pipeline. Thus, KOLs are more likely to give their time to a MSL than a sales rep.

You should try to reach out to the highest level possible in medical affairs and then get a referral back down the chain of command to a regional director. I would cold or warm call VP and Senior VP of medical affairs. Make 50 calls in a day and don't take no for an answer. Please be nice but assertive.

The regional directors in the field are going to be difficult to reach directly w/o a referral.
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Re: MSL Question

Postby D.X. » Fri Jul 14, 2017 12:08 pm

Hi -

Do NOT contact a VP or Head of Medical Affairs be it US or Global organization - they are too high up and too busy!! The MSL is only one sub-function in Medical Affairs - not only are they limited in time to meet with sub functional heads and leads they are also pulled in many cross-functional directions also at high levels - meaning no time!! You will no get through or get a negative response.

seek contacts within the MSL sub function to include Team Leads and MSLs to network with! Nate is not correct with the advice.

Also kill the discussion with reps wanting to be MSLs the jobs are different and there are few reasons a Sales person wants to be a MSL - both build relationships but one deals with closing a dealing with price negotiations, volumes, etc a completely different competency and skills compared to MSLs with different compensation structure. As mentioned I was an MSL - in a well established best practice Pharma i was close to my Sales teams both professionally and personally - never did they express any negative feelings or comments to me or even desire to be a MSL - so take advice with a grain of salt.

I am in a Global role and still set strategy that is then tricked down to country MSLs so I talk to them and local Sales they are no issues!!

so careful on taking advice from those who have not sat in the role or have been in a Pharma.

Dx
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Re: MSL Question

Postby Dave Jensen » Sat Jul 15, 2017 9:11 am

I totally agree with DX. There's some "talk to the senior leadership" advice here and that can backfire more often than anything. If you talk to people who are just a few years ahead of you at most, as DX suggests (the MSL's themselves or the regional leads) that's an approach that works and won't put you in the doghouse.

Dave
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Re: MSL Question

Postby Nate W. » Sat Jul 15, 2017 1:11 pm

Dave Jensen wrote:I totally agree with DX. There's some "talk to the senior leadership" advice here and that can backfire more often than anything. If you talk to people who are just a few years ahead of you at most, as DX suggests (the MSL's themselves or the regional leads) that's an approach that works and won't put you in the doghouse.

Dave


We have a difference of opinion in how to approach networking with the goal of actually getting a job. To be effective, you need to spend most of your time talking with the decision makers who can actually hire a MSL. They are the regional directors of medical affairs. However, regional directors are more difficult to locate and get hold of than a VP of Medical Affairs that is based at the corporate headquarters, not in the field. Most field MSLs are not in the position to hire a potential MSL or offer a referral to their superiors. Remember most biotech companies are fairly small, less than a 1000 employees. Thus, I feel quite comfortable calling a VP of Medical Affairs at company, like Exelixis with 600 employees, to identify a regional director of Medical Affairs for the SW.

However, larger multinational Pharma companies are going to be problematic. So use LinkedIn and the corporate directory of the C-suite to find less senior directors in Medical Affairs that is based at the corporate headquarters. Another approach is to talk with KOLs in academia that have collaborated with Medical affairs teams and ask them for a referral. Always approach them with an interest in talking shop and scientific issues first.

I got my two MSL interviews using these approaches. I got an interview with Novartis and Biogen because of getting referrals from the right people in leadership positions, not because I talked with a junior MSL in the field. Plus, I probably wasted much more time talking with non-management MSLs and people affiliated with medical affairs (i.e. sales reps, recruiters, former MSLs) than talking with the managers actually doing the hiring.


Medical affairs is a competitive field to get into and requires that you be assertive using all approaches and leads. If you are nice, nobody is going to get mad at you (or place you in the doghouse) because you are assertive and express enthusiasm for the position.

Dave, this would be Thang's competition potentially for a MSL role. Why would Thang's competition help him find a job? What incentive do they have to help a stranger given their position within the organization?
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Re: MSL Question

Postby D.X. » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:11 am

Nate:

As mentioned you are not familiar with organizational structure of mid to large Pharma companies - MSLs in most companies are a sub function and those usually carrying a Medical Affairs terminology in thier direct title as I have are part of the umbrella organisation working across the sub-functions using mainly leadership by influence competencies. Even small companies like where I work have such complexity I.e. Our Global MSL org is under a Greater Center of Excelence under a greater Medical Affairs function - others may have it under a Medical Services or Scientific Operations under a broader Medical
Affairs as I was in or as a sub arm of a Med Aff department where other sub functions to include Medical Communications, Publications Management, Medical Information, Medical Writing, Medical Education all sit - each with a Head and each reporting up the chain to that very busy VP, SVP, or EVP - so those guys are busy. The person to go to is the Regional Tesm Leads - who will generally have the name of the MSL organization in thier direct title (this can differ from company to company)- not Medical Affairs.

Second I dislike your continued message that a person such a VP is a final
Decision maker in a hire that trumps that decision thier direct report hiring manager who has a team. That is not how an organization works be it Pharma or another sector works. That is disempowering behavior and no company I have been in have I seen. It is not proper leadership or organizational practice - if that happens see how long that hiring manager lasts! So please dont perpetuate that myth of someone high up trumping a hiring managers decision - if any body on the forum potentially runs into this situation... RUN! You do not want the be there - signs and symptoms of a terrible work place.
So please don't suggest this is common - it's not.

Also the negativity you suggest everyone has and that everyone is super competitive to the point that they don't help is not the normal. And goes against the recommendation to
Network - which does more harm than good - we've already noted challenges of networking and need to move on when one contact doesn't work. I think the target audience here does not need pessimistic views on networking!

My partner and I are staring a business on the side - you know whose been some of our greatest supporters? The competition! They are networking with us because we will help grow the market and the pie! So it's not so dire as you'd like to paint! They've open doors for us to get our voice heard and get our supply chain going! So Nate - it's not sooo bad out there!

DX
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Re: MSL Question

Postby Caroline Ritchie » Mon Jul 24, 2017 7:10 pm

I completely agree with the information D.X. has provided, having worked in Medical Affairs at a large (50,000+ person company) very recently and having many friends who are currently in MSL roles.

I would also like to add that asking someone in your network to pass on your CV puts them in a very awkward situation (unless you have worked with that person in a similar type of role and that person offers to do so). If someone passes along a CV to a hiring manager, it is akin to endorsing that person for the position. While I might have a really close friend or meet someone at a networking event who seems really great at what they do, I would never pass along a CV unless I was 100% confident that they would both excel in the role and fit in well with the company. Anything less, and passing along that CV would hurt my reputation.

Don't let this discourage you from networking, and definitely let people know you are looking for an MSL role. You could simply ask people if they know of any open positions or have any advice for how you could get your foot in the door. I have found that these more subtle approaches are much more effective in the long-term.
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Re: MSL Question

Postby Nate W. » Mon Jul 24, 2017 10:02 pm

Caroline Ritchie wrote:I completely agree with the information D.X. has provided, having worked in Medical Affairs at a large (50,000+ person company) very recently and having many friends who are currently in MSL roles.

I would also like to add that asking someone in your network to pass on your CV puts them in a very awkward situation (unless you have worked with that person in a similar type of role and that person offers to do so). If someone passes along a CV to a hiring manager, it is akin to endorsing that person for the position. While I might have a really close friend or meet someone at a networking event who seems really great at what they do, I would never pass along a CV unless I was 100% confident that they would both excel in the role and fit in well with the company. Anything less, and passing along that CV would hurt my reputation.

Don't let this discourage you from networking, and definitely let people know you are looking for an MSL role. You could simply ask people if they know of any open positions or have any advice for how you could get your foot in the door. I have found that these more subtle approaches are much more effective in the long-term.


Thanks Caroline for your advice. The point that I am making is that one should focus on networking with decision makers primary, not individuals who might be competing for the same position. The reason for this is actually how you explained why you might be reluctant to pass on a name to your supervisor for a MSL position. You are worried about your reputation. On this point, I think we are in agreement. The next question is how far up the chain of command does one extend its networking efforts. This requires discernment; the regional directors and maybe one level about that is the target audience for a MSL position.

I would like to understand this reluctance among peers to help others and I don't want to place them in an uncomfortable position with their supervisors.

Caroline, you really think your supervisor or a supervisor at another company (who you considered a colleague) would unfairly judge you if you forwarded a prospective MSL and that person didn't work out (assuming he hired him)?

Is there anything that a perspective candidate do to alleviate your concerns?

Would you prefer a prospective MSL who asked to speak with you:

1) Not to ask for a referral if you spoke with them
2) Talk directly with your supervisor (before meeting with you)
3) Ask for a referral to your supervisor first before contacting your supervisor.
4) Don't network with me in the first place if you are going to talk with my supervisor; given my concerns about my reputation.

Often companies have a referral program whereby employees are compensated for hires, would you ever recommend a prospective MSL for such a program given your concerns?
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Re: MSL Question

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Jul 24, 2017 11:39 pm

In most companies, you simply pass along the material to the HR department and they'll mark it with your name. Should that person be hired, you'd get a nice bonus. Should that person be a dingbat, you'll get some razzing, but in the company that actively rewards their staff for referrals, it's a minor issue.

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